Some of the people who actually survived Hitler’s concentration camps would, had there been no Holocaust, have committed suicide. Adversity gives us a reason to care.
As we have seen throughout history, mankind either survives because survival is hard, thanks to natural forces or enemies, or because there is an overarching mindset that makes life meaningful and purposeful. In other words, to thrive, mankind either needs strong enemies or a strong religion. Without a good reason to live, we stop caring about what happens once we are gone.
When people have no real adversity or an enduring productive ethos, then, lacking real opposition, they lose the will to fight, doing nothing more with their lives than simply engaging in mischief out of sheer boredom. Can anyone say “BLM riots”, or “Karens”? We could just as easily argue that this explains why Eve ate the forbidden fruit. G-d had promised to kill Adam and Eve if they ate the fruit, but given the static nature of existence in the Garden, death may have seemed like something worth trying out, a new experience! And why not? Eve had no children, so she had no long term reason to care about anything else. Why not do something naughty and see what happens?
G-d responded both by making Eve a mother (giving her reasons to care and plan for the long term), and cursing the earth to ensure Adam had real adversity, making the lack of food a challenge to mankind’s very survival. Up until the 20th century, this usually worked: mankind was insecure about physical existence, and so every society, from primitive pagans to devout Muslims and Christians, battle for survival, using growth as a buffer against death.
But as we have seen in the last century, once religion is dead and nobody is starving, mankind reverts to life in the Garden of Eden: we become generally useless. The truly decadent societies, like the Roman Empire, are the model for 21st Century Europe and America: lacking any real enemies or a meaningful (non-pagan) faith, they turn inward and waste away. People in this situation lose the will to achieve, to triumph, and even to procreate. We have seen this around the world: every developed nation is in negative population growth territory, and most are basically in freefall – from South Korea to Japan to Germany and the United States, women are having far fewer than the 2.1 children it takes to even maintain a population.
Actually, not every developed nation. There is one exceptional outlier: Israel. Israel continues to grow organically, and women are still having many children – about 3 per woman. They do this in part because Israel has many religious people who find meaning and purpose in their lives through their religion, and so do not need adversity or enemies in order to reproduce.
But what is exceptional about Israel is that even the non-religious adults are procreating, and at high rates. The 2.6 rate among less religiously observant Jewish women is still far higher than the rate in any other industrial nation.
I submit that the reason for this is that Israel – and the Jews who live within it – are keenly aware that billions of people on the planet want their country destroyed, and would not shed a tear if every Jew on earth was murdered.
Jewish history is full of precedents: the relatively “free” tribe of Levi in Egypt did not grow compared to the other tribes who were all enslaved. Levi, lacking oppression, did not have the same instinctive need to breed as a defense mechanism. Having children is, after all, not unlike a post-Depression family’s instinctive need to always keep food reserves in the pantry.
Our human response to adversity is to rise to the challenge. Knowing that Jews are being attacked in America today makes me ready, willing and able to defend myself. Similarly, Israeli women under fire from rockets are both ready to fight, and happy to breed.
It logically follows, at least for this devout writer, that Israel’s enemies are actually a gift, and one wrapped and delivered by G-d Himself.
This is because our enemies do, indeed, perversely aid the Jewish people. Every time Jews start living comfortably in their adopted countries, a Haman or a Hitler arises to remind us that if we do not stick together and cleave to our common purpose, then we will perish. For much of recorded human history, Jews were charged, taxed, or banned outright from countries (such as in England, where Jews were banished from 1290 until 1655). Such treatment served to remind all Jews who lived elsewhere that they had something to fight for, as well as someone to fight against.
The more broad historical lessons of these simple conclusions may be fascinating: consider whether people who think they have enemies (such as those who own guns in America) have higher reproductive rates precisely because they are cognizant of the threats to their persons, possessions, and families. I suspect there is something this.
This conclusion might also offer a kernel of hope to conservatives in America: aware that we have no shortage of enemies, in the long run we are more likely to win the war demographically. Conservative women are invested in the long term, and are far more fecund and feisty than committed leftists who, by the time they figure out their genders and pronouns, are well past reproductive age.
Things are not what they seem. For those who lack a productive approach to life, it is our enemies who make our lives worth living, who lead us to strive, to procreate, and to achieve.